Unemployment claims have been drifting downward in recent months, but they remain far higher than they were prior to the pandemic.
Just under 360,000 people filed initial claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which Congress created as part of its $2 trillion coronavirus relief package to provide assistance to those not typically eligible for benefits, such as gig workers and the self-employed. That's up nearly 15,000 from the week before.
Together, initial applications for benefits stood at about 1.1 million last week without seasonal adjustments.
Continued jobless claims -- which count people who have applied for benefits for at least two weeks in a row -- stood at 7.8 million, down 709,000 from the prior week's revised level, on a seasonally adjusted basis.
Workers exhausting regular benefits
The declining figures, however, are not necessarily a good sign. Long-term unemployment is surging as the national recovery softens. A growing number of people have been unable to find new jobs and are exhausting the regular state benefits, which typically last 26 weeks.
They are shifting to an extended federal safety net, primarily the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which Congress also created in March to provide the jobless with an additional 13 weeks of benefits.
About 3.7 million people were collecting these pandemic benefits as of Oct. 10. That's up more than 387,000 from the week before.
And another nearly 401,000 Americans were receiving extended benefits, which provide payments for up to an additional 20 weeks depending on the state. The federal government is fully funding this program during the pandemic, instead of asking states to contribute half.
That extended benefits figure is down 44,200 from the prior week. Some states have been ending their extended benefits program as their unemployment rates improve.
However, those longer-term benefits will not be around much longer. The pandemic extension of payments -- as well as the program for gig workers and the self-employed -- expire at the end of the year. And the feds will no longer pick up half the cost of extended benefits
A total of 22.7 million Americans were claiming unemployment benefits, as of Oct. 10. That's down 416,000 from the prior week.